It seems like there is insurance for everything these days. You can get insurance coverage for everything from pets to swimming pools. But today, we are talking about life insurance.
The History of Life Insurance
Did you know that life insurance was believed to have originated in ancient Rome? However, life insurance then was more informal than we know today. The inception of life insurance was established for burial societies known as “collegia,” which provided financial support for their members’ burial and funeral arrangements.
However, the modern concept of life insurance emerged in the late 17th century in England. The Amicable Society for a Perpetual Assurance Office, established in 1706, is known as one of the earliest life insurance providers. Followed by the establishment of the Society for Equitable Assurances on Lives and Survivorship (now commonly known as Equitable Life) in 1762. These early societies laid the foundation for the modern-day development of life insurance.
Life Insurance Today
Today individuals pay for life insurance as a financial safety net that individuals and families can rely on for peace of mind, end-of-life expenses, and protection. For some, it’s simply a way to secure their loved ones’ or dependents’ financial future; for others, it’s an investment tool.
10 Benefits Of Life Insurance
Below, we’ll explore the top 10 benefits of life insurance that make it a valuable asset in one’s financial planning.
1. Financial Protection for Loved Ones
The most fundamental benefit life insurance companies preach is financial protection.
A life insurance policy offers beneficiaries financial stability during stressful times.
Whether the payout covers funeral expenses, pays off debts, replaces lost income, or funds education, life insurance coverage can provide the necessary funds to help loved ones navigate a challenging time.
2. Peace of Mind
No one likes to think about the end of their life, terminal illnesses or something catastrophic happening, but the reality is that it can. Setting up your loved ones with financial stability can offer tremendous peace of mind. A life insurance policy allows you to plan for the unexpected, ensuring that your family is not burdened with financial worries during an already difficult time.
3. Income Replacement
For many families, there is only one primary source of income and losing it can be crippling. Some people buy life insurance simply to serve as an income replacement because it allows beneficiaries to maintain their standard of living without facing immediate financial hardship.
4. Estate Planning and Legacy Building
Life insurance can be a key piece of the puzzle in estate planning. A well-thought-out policy can offer liquidity to pay estate taxes and other expenses, preventing the need to sell assets. Additionally, life insurance can be used to leave a thoughtful legacy, whether it’s through charitable giving, funding a trust, or supporting education initiatives. The policyholder has control over how their legacy can be handled for future generations.
5. Debt Repayment
Debts and financial obligations don’t disappear upon a person’s death. Life insurance proceeds can repay debts such as mortgages, medical bills, car loans, and credit card balances. Building up a foundation with a solid coverage amount will ensure that financial debt obligations are not passed on to loved ones.
6. Tax Benefits
Life insurance can offer certain tax advantages, depending on the type of policy and local regulations. For example, the death benefit paid to beneficiaries is generally tax-free. Additionally, some policies may accumulate cash value on a tax-deferred basis, allowing for potential tax savings. It is important to check with a financial professional for any tax implications or payments, like reporting it has income tax if you do get a lump sum of money.
7. Flexible Options and Riders
Life insurance policies come with a range of options and riders that can be customized to meet individual needs. For example, riders can be added to provide coverage for critical illness, disability, or long-term care. This flexibility allows policyholders to tailor their coverage and maximize its benefits.
8. Cash Value Accumulation
Certain types of life insurance policies have a cash value component that accumulates over time. The cash value can be accessed via loans or withdrawals, offering a source of funds for emergencies, investment opportunities, or retirement income.
9. Retirement Planning
Life insurance can be an integral part of retirement planning. Permanent life insurance policies with cash value accumulation can supplement retirement income, providing additional financial security. Some policies also offer annuity-like features, creating a stream of income in retirement.
10. Business Continuity
For business owners, life insurance can be a valuable tool for ensuring business continuity. For example, a solid policy can be used to fund buy-sell agreements, protect against the loss of a key employee, or provide liquidity during future business transitions. It is also a great perk to offer during the enrollment of a new employee.
Main Types of Life Insurance
In a nutshell, life insurance can be broken up into two primary groups—term life insurance and permanent life insurance.
Each of these groups includes several different policy options.
Term Life Insurance
Term life insurance basically provides coverage for a certain time period, such as 10, 20, or 30 years. If the policyholder dies during the term, the death benefit is paid out to the beneficiaries. But, if the policyholder is still alive when the term ends, the coverage expires, and no payout is made. Term life insurance typically has lower monthly premiums compared to permanent life insurance.
Permanent Life Insurance
As long as the premiums are paid, permanent life insurance offers coverage for the entire lifetime of the policyholder.
Here are a few common types of permanent life insurance:
- Whole Life Insurance: Whole life insurance provides a cash value component that grows over time and a guaranteed death benefit. The premium payments are generally fixed and remain level for the duration of the policy.
- Universal Life Insurance: Universal life insurance is more flexible in terms of its premium payments, cash value accumulation and death benefits. Policyholders are able to adjust their premium payments and death benefits within certain limits.
- Variable Life Insurance: Variable life insurance allows policyholders to invest the cash value component into various investments, think stocks and bonds. The death benefit and cash value may change based on the performance of the investments.
- Indexed Universal Life Insurance: Indexed universal life insurance is similar to universal life insurance. However, the cash value growth is tied to the performance of a specific stock market index, such as the S&P 500.
Picking A Life Insurance Policy
Picking a life insurance policy will vary depending on your individual needs and circumstances.
Here is an easy step-by-step guide to help you find the best life insurance policy:
Determine Your Needs
The first step in selecting a life insurance policy is considering why you need it and what you are looking to achieve. It could range from providing financial support to loved ones, covering funeral expenses, paying off debt, or simply leaving a legacy.
Calculate Your Coverage Needs
Assess your current financial obligations, including expenses such as mortgage payments, education costs for children, and any outstanding debts you may owe (credit card, auto loan, medical bills, etc.). Use that number to calculate how much coverage you need to provide financial support to your beneficiaries.
Choose the Policy Type
Are you looking for term life or permanent life insurance? They both have pros and cons, so consider which one aligns with your needs and goals.
Review Policy Riders
Life insurance riders are optional add-ons that can enhance or customize your coverage. Common riders include waiver of premium, accelerated death benefit, and accidental death benefits rider. Consider which riders make sense for your situation. Note these will likely come at an additional cost to your premium.
Understand Risk Classifications
Insurance companies classify applicants based on their health and other potential risk factors, like age, medical history, tobacco usage, occupation, etc. A higher risk classification could result in higher premiums. It is important to be truthful and transparent about your health and habits during the application process.
Determine Length of Coverage
If you go with term life insurance, pick a term length that aligns with your financial needs and goals.
Like any insurance, it is important to get quotes from multiple providers to compare premiums, coverage options, and policy features. Be sure you are comparing similar policies to ensure a true comparison. Keep in mind that the life insurance costs you see online could differ from the rates you ultimately qualify for based on your individual risk profile and needs.
Check the Insurer’s Reputation
Have you heard of this insurance provider before? Do they offer other insurance policies? Research the reputation and financial stability before making any decisions. Look for customer reviews and ratings from independent rating agencies and any complaints filed with regulatory authorities.
Understand Policy Details
Carefully review the policy details, including the coverage amount, term length (if applicable), premium payment schedule, exclusions, and any riders or additional features. Don’t be afraid to ask the provider questions if something is confusing.
Review the Policy Terms and Exclusions
Are there any exclusions or limitations? For example, some policies have a suicide provision that may limit payouts within the first two years of the policy. Does it truly cover end-of-life or final expenses?
If you currently carry life insurance through your employer, understand coverage may not be portable, meaning you could lose coverage if you leave your job. There is always the option to supplement your group coverage with an individual policy that stays with you regardless of employment status.
Assess Your Income and Budget
Choose a policy with premium payments that fit within your budget. You may need to disclose your income on the application to ensure the coverage amount and premium payments are within your means.
Name Your Beneficiaries
Designate primary and contingent beneficiaries to receive the death benefit proceeds upon your death. Update your beneficiaries as needed, especially after major life events such as marriage or the birth of a child.
Seek Professional Advice
If you’re uncertain or have complex financial considerations, consider seeking advice from a licensed insurance agent, financial advisor, or estate planning attorney. They can help guide you through the process and offer recommendations tailored to your unique situation.
Apply for the Policy
Once you’ve chosen a policy that meets your needs, you’ll need to complete an application and may need to undergo a medical exam as part of the underwriting process. The insurer will then review your application and determine your eligibility and premium rate.
Remember that life insurance is a long-term commitment intended to provide financial protection to your loved ones in the event of your death. Take the time to carefully evaluate your options and select a policy that aligns with your needs and goals.
Life Insurance: A Decision You Won’t Regret
Life insurance offers a wide range of benefits that extend beyond its primary function of providing financial protection to loved ones. From peace of mind to tax advantages to retirement planning, life insurance is a versatile and powerful financial tool that should be considered as part of a comprehensive financial plan. Whether you’re looking to safeguard your family’s future, leave a legacy, or plan for retirement, life insurance can offer the flexibility and security you need to achieve your goals.
You might also be interested in: How To Protect A Family Member with LGBTQ Life Insurance